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Guide to the John McCalla Family Papers, 1754-1917 and undated

Summary

John Moore McCalla was a militia officer and civil servant, of Lexington, Ky., and Washington, D.C. Collection contains correspondence, receipt books, scrapbooks, family cookbook, and other papers, relating to Civil War politics; local Kentucky politics (1820-1870); the Mexican War; presidential politics, especially Polk's election (1844) and the second inauguration of Abraham Lincoln; the American Colonization Society; American Party; and the family's opposition to Henry Clay. Includes a journal of John Moore McCalla, Jr., describing a journey to Liberia in 1860 and his activities in Washington in 1861. Also contains letters from former McCalla slaves in Liberia, and letters of John M. McCalla, Sr.'s father, Dr. Andrew J. McCalla, including several discussing the treatment of the insane and the Eastern Lunatic Asylum in Lexington, Ky. Includes records of James M. Varnum and Joseph M. Varnum's estates, inherited through Helen Varnum Hill McCalla. Also contains family papers including letter books, notes, finances, and miscellany.

Collection Details

Collection Number
RL.11185
Title
John McCalla family papers
Date
1754-1917 and undated
Extent
9 Linear Feet
Repository
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Language
Materials in English

Collection Overview

The John M. McCalla Family Papers contain correspondence, personal, business, political, financial, military, and legal items, pamphlets, journals, letter books, ledgers, newspaper clippings, various volumes, and a family cook book.

Papers of John Moore McCalla (b. 1793), lawyer, politician, brigadier general of the Kentucky militia, and the second auditor of the United States constitute the bulk of this collection. The papers cover important historical events such as the War of 1812; several presidential elections, including Jackson, Polk, and Lincoln; The Mexican War; the annexation of Texas and Oregon; and the rise of the American Party. Letters dating from the Civil War period include discussions of McCalla Jr.'s work with the Quartermaster General and the Surgeon General's offices; Seminary Military Hospital in Georgetown; the ongoing military campaigns; and McCalla Sr.'s pro-South sympathies.

Volumes included cover several subject areas: financial and estate accounts, weather reports, an index to cases in Congress in the 1850s, and an accounting of property rental and construction; a pamphlet, 1839, with an address given at the fiftieth anniversary of the Lexington Light Infantry; a journal, 1860-1861, of Dr. John M. McCalla, Jr., written while he was an agent for the U. S. government in the return of slaves captured from a slaver, describing his journey to Liberia, the political and social conditions there, and life in Washington, D.C., in 1861; ledgers to the estates left to Helen Varnum (Hill) McCalla (including estates from James M. Varnum, Joseph B. Varnum, and Silas N. Hill); and a book listing gifts received by the family from the 1890s.

Family papers include journals and notes from various McCalla women, including Helen Louise Sargent; documentation of travel, family relationships, and estate business; clippings, including reports of political disputes in Kentucky; and other miscellaneous items.

More Biographical / Historical Info

Arrangement

Arranged into series: Correspondence, Financial Papers, Militia and Legal Papers, and Personal Papers.

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How to Cite

[Identification of item], John McCalla Family Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Contents of the Collection

1. Correspondence, 1795-1889

The Correspondence is arranged chronologically. Correspondence discusses personal and family matters; presidential elections; the Mexican War; the annexation of Texas and Oregon (1845); the activities of McCalla and others in the Democratic and American Parties; the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln and the coming of the Civil War; various business ventures in Kentucky and Washington, D.C.; letters from several former McCalla slaves who settled in Liberia (circa 1834 and 1836); conditions in the Eastern Lunatic Asylum in Lexington, Kentuckey (circa 1826); McCalla's duties as U.S. marshal for the District of Kentucky; and his service as 2nd auditor in the Treasury Department.

Some of the letters in this series discuss personal or financial matters. For example, on Dec. 15, 1818, McCalla writes to Congressman Henry Clay asking his assistance in gaining compensation from the government. There are also 1820s letters between John McCalla and his brother, William Latta McCalla (a controversial Presbyterian minister), discussing personal difficulties, their families, and the Ebenezer Presbytery of Kentucky. Beginning in 1828, and continuing into the 1850s, a personal correspondence develops between John McCalla and Medard Coutre of Frenchtown, Monroe County, Michigan. Both men had participated in the River Basin Campaign of 1812-1813, and Coutre’s family settled on the site of the battle of Jan. 22, 1813.

The Correspondence also contains a large number of letters discussing political matters and disputes. Letters about the character and affairs of Henry Clay are written by Duff Green (1829), Thomas Patrick Moore (June 24, 1829) and S.H. Laughlin of Nashville (Sept. 2, 1844). John McLean, Supreme Court Justice, writes to congratulate McCalla on his appointment as U.S. Marshal on Feb. 16, 1830. On March 31, 1845, McCalla was appointed second auditor of the U. S. Treasury and immediately moved his family to Washington D.C. His term lasted until 1849. With Taylor's election, General McCalla left the Treasury Department to enter private law practice in Washington. Wm. 0. Butler writes in 1851 on his candidacy for the Presidency. There are details on the second auditor's office as McCalla gathers material for charges against his successor, Philip Clayton. With Franklin Pierce in office, McCalla again sought governmental appointment. In 1853, Pierce received letters from several individuals, all recommending that McCalla be re-appointed as second auditor.

On June 8, 1860, John McCalla's son, Dr. John Moore McCalla, Jr., becomes agent for the United States government in the return of slaves captured from a slaver. Materials related to his work with the American Colonization Society are also present in the Personal Papers series.

Along with business correspondence, McCalla's letter books contain financial accounts, poetry, property rentals, personal correspondence, and construction information. From the 1830s through the 1850s, these letter books contain mostly business correspondence of McCalla to various government officials, including President Andrew Jackson.

Correspondence, 1795-1849
(11 folders)
Box 1
Correspondence, 1850-1867
(10 folders)
Box 2
Correspondence, 1868-1889 and undated
(5 folders)
Box 3
Correspondence (oversize), 1869
(1 folder)
Box 13
John M. McCalla letter book, 1830-1841
Box 8
John M. McCalla letter books, 1849-1851 March
(3 Volumes)
Box 9
John M. McCalla letter books, 1851 Oct.-1854 Aug.
(3 Volumes)
Box 10
John M. McCalla letter books, 1854 Sept.-1868 Mar.
(3 Volumes)
Box 11
Incomplete subject guide of letter books, undated
(1 folder)
Box 12
Index of letter books [?], undated
(1 folder)
Box 12

2. Financial papers, 1810-1917 and undated

Financial Papers include business papers, account books, ledgers, daybooks, household accounts, bills and receipts, and tax records. Financial papers document the names of businesses in Washington, D. C., and include a number of tax assessments in that city. Ledgers chronicle John Moore McCalla’s time as United State auditor and his duties while in that position. Among the financial items are several books dealing with the account of J. B. Varnum.

General financial papers, 1810-1859
(2 folders)
Box 3
General financial papers (oversize), 1838; 1860; 1880
(1 folder)
Box 13
General financial papers, 1860-1889 and undated
(4 folders)
Box 4
Tax records, 1844-1892
(2 folders)

Includes tax receipts and other tax accounts for unspecified places, as well as Washington D.C. and Lexington, Kentucky.

Box 4
Account book, 1856-1861

1 volume including account of Dr. Silas H. Hill with J.B. Varnum, as well as debts and tax records.

Box 4
Account book, 1843
Box 4
John M. McCalla's day book as agent and attorney, Washington, D.C., 1849-1853
Box 4
John M. McCalla's day book, 1854-1857, 1862-1865

Largely empty.

Box 4
Ledger, 1860-1875

Includes dates, receipts, expenditures, account summaries, the estate of Mary Butler Hill, and financial dealings with James M. Varnum.

Volume F:6835
Ledger, 1865-1875

The entirety of this ledger comprises payments and receipts from various endeavors.

Volume F:6836
Ledger, 1875-1917

Includes index, financial and accounting information. Mostly this ledger is a chronicle of real estate dealings and the trustee and financial information of Isabel (McCalla) Goldsboroughr.

Volume F:6837
Account book: J. M. Varnum in a/c with J. B. Varnum Jr., 1860
(1 folder)
Box 5
Account books: S. H. Hill in a/c with Kennedy and Pugh, 1860-1861
(2 Volumes)

2 account books in 1 folder.

Box 5
Account book: Bank of Metropolis in a/c with J. B. Varnum Jr., 1863
(1 folder)
Box 5
Lewis Johnson and Co. in a/c with J. B. Varnum and J. B. Varnum, Jr., 1862-1869; 1874-1875
(5 Volumes)

5 account books in 1 folder.

Box 5
Rent book, 1867
(1 folder)
Box 5
Mrs. H. H. McCalla in account with J.B. Varnum her trustee, 1864-1875
(1 folder)
Box 5

3. Militia and legal papers, 1754-1905 and undated

This series contains both militia and legal papers, including deeds, wills, claims, leases, contracts, law licenses, indentures, papers dealing with the settlement of estates and McCalla's legal practice, militia rosters, accounts, petitions to sue, and court martial proceedings from the War of 1812. Interesting property involved is from estates of J. M. Varnum whose heirs are Helen V. Hill and Mary Isabel Hill for one part and Joseph B. Varnum on the other. This estate, centered in Washington real estate and securities, continued through the life of Isabel (McCalla) Goldsborough and Helen Hill Goldsborough.

On March 31, 1845, McCalla was appointed second auditor of the U.S. Treasury and immediately relocated to Washington. Many of the papers date from his time in office.

In an affidavit of Sept. 24, 1844, John McKee claims to have seen Henry Clay drinking spirits and using profanity, in Richmond, Kentucky in the fall of 1841. An index refers to cases in Congress during the 1950s and there is an address given at the fiftieth anniversary of the Lexington Light Infantry.

Legal papers: Indentures, contracts, etc., 1754-1875
(6 folders)
Box 5
Legal papers: Indentures, contracts, etc., 1876-1905 and undated
(2 folders)
Box 6
Democratic votes of Fayette County, Kentucky, who cast their votes for Polk and Dallas at the November election, 1844
(1 folder)
Box 6
Congress topics for discussion reference book, 1844
(1 folder)
Box 6
Index to various cases in Congress, in the departments, and the Court of Claims, 1850-1851; 1855-1856
(1 folder)
Box 6
Guardianship papers of Mary Isabel Hill, 1865-1866
(1 folder)
Box 6
Petition to sue John M. McCalla from G. R. Freeman, 1876
(1 folder)
Box 6
Address declared to the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Lexington Light Infantry Company by John McCalla, 1839
(1 folder)
Box 6
Militia and court marshals re: War of 1812
Box 6
Militia and legal papers (oversize), 1785-1876
(1 folder)
Box 13
Roster of officers of the 42nd reg. K.M. field and staff, 1818-1825
(1 folder)
Box 6
The Independent Gazetteer; of the Chronicle of Freedom, 1787
(1 folder)
Box 13
Abstract of the queen's order, in council of the 5th of February, 1856, for the preserving, promoting health and securing cleanliness and ventilation on board of passenger ships proceeding from the United Kingdom to [?] her majesty's possessions aboard, 1856
(1 folder)
Box 13

4. Personal papers, 1816-1872

Personal papers contain collected newspaper clippings (pertaining to workers’ rights, especially women and children, religion, and political disputes), hymns, poetry, journals, art books, a cook book, and miscellaneous. McCalla’s personal writings, including short stories, lectures, articles and poetry, are also filed in this series, along with several journals. Chief among these journals is one from Dr. John M. McCalla, Jr., McCalla’s son. He documents his journey to Liberia from 1860-1861 when he was appointed as an agent for the U.S. government in the return of slaves captured from a slave ship. The rough draft of a book entitled “Select Reader Comprising of Choice Extracts, In prose and verse, adapted to the use of the public and private schools,” by Louisa McCalla is also included.

Clippings about factory rights; fair wages and working conditions for women and children, 1834; 1845 and undated
(1 folder)
Box 6
John McCalla's writings, undated

Hymns; prose and verse; poems; short story; articles; lecturesf

Box 6
Corner of Pennsylvania and Tenth Street photograph (2 copies), undated
Box 6
135 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington D.C. photograph, undated
Box 13
John McCalla Jr. journal, 1860 June 13-1861 Sept. 14

John Moore McCalla, Jr., kept a journal of a trip to Liberia in 1860 which concluded with brief entries on Washington, D.C., in 1861. The McCallas were active members of the American Colonization Society which worked in 1860 with the U.S. government to return to Africa 383 captives seized by a U.S. warship from a slaver. The slaves were brought into Key West, Florida, where the Colonization Society sent two ships, Star of the Union and South Shore, to pick up the Africans and transport them to Liberia. Dr. McCalla was appointed agent of the U.S. government by Secretary of Interior Jacob Thompson, and Dr. J. M. Grymes was named surgeon for the Colonization Society.

Dr. McCalla started on June 13, 1860, from New York by ship for Key West. He describes the town while awaiting the departure of the Star of the Union (p. 18). The Africans were from the Wydah tribe, whose customs are well described by Dr. McCalla. After seasickness and the death of a number of Africans, the ship arrived at Monrovia, Liberia, on Sept. 2, 1860, where the South Shore also docked about the same time. While part of the freed slaves were being landed at Monrovia, Dr. McCalla visited the town and described its houses. He met Judge Wilson and Dr. Joseph Jenkins Hoberts (1809-18?6), the black representatives of the American Colonization Society, as well as President Stephen A. Benson of Liberia and the missionary, the Rev. Alfred F. Russell. Dr.McCalla describes in detail a dinner at the home of the first President of Liberia, Dr. Joseph Roberts, and his wife, Jane (Waring) Roberts.

The Star of the Union sails to Greenville, Liberia, to land the last of the freed slaves. Koontown is described. Comment is made (p. 66) on the two Llberian political parties, True Liberians and Whigs. Dr. McCalla is interested in the native plants he finds and notes the ships which come and go frequently. He begins his return voyage on Sept. 21, 1860, stopping at Grand Turk and Salt Cay in the West Indies to take on a cargo of salt.

This portion of the journal contains a clipping, Apr. 8, 1870, from the New York Herald, reporting the wretched conditions of life in Liberia, the high death rate, and poor schools.

Box 6
"The Select Reader comprising choice extracts, in prose and verse, adapted to the use of public and private schools," manuscript draft by Louisa McCalla, 1865
Box 7
Clippings, 1816-1872

Topics include political news and disputes; letters to editor; press attacking McCalla; his removal as auditor; and a map of Boston's burnt district

Box 7
Clippings about the Presbyterian churches and clergymen in Lexington, KY, undated
(1 folder)
Box 7
McCalla family record of gifts, 1889-1890; 1894-1899

Bound volume with accounts of gifts, visits, including re: J. M. McCalla's illness

Box 7
Helen Louise/Helouise Sargent poetry book, 1893-1897
(1 folder)
Box 7
Helen Louise Sargent's "Hide and Seek: An Episode of 'The Forty-Five'," a bound manuscript journal, 1896
(1 folder)
Box 7
Invitations and place cards, undated
Box 7
Printed advertisements, undated
Box 7
Printed songs and hymns, undated
Box 7
Untitled bound journal with clippings, poems, and hymns, 1827 and undated
Box 8
Helen Louise Sargent's art notes, undated
(3 Volumes)
Box 8
Mary Butler Hill's scrapbook and journal, 1819-1820 and undated
Box 8
Family cookbook, undated
Box 8
Miscellaneous clippings, loose papers, undated
Box 8
 

Historical Note

John Moore McCalla was a lawyer, Democratic politician, brigadier general of Kentucky militia, and second auditor of the United States. He was the son of Dr. Andrew J. and Martha (More) McCalla. John McCalla married Maria Frances Hogg and had three sons, Dr. John M. McCalla, Jr.; Andrew J. McCalla; and Thomas McCalla. Dr. John M. McCalla, Jr. married Helen Varnum Hill and they had a daughter names Isabel Hill McCalla. Isabel married Edmond Lee Goldsborough and had three children: Edmond Lee, John McCalla, and Helen Louisa.

McCalla attended Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. He joined the Lexington Light Artillery Co. in 1812 and found himself part of the Fifth Regiment of Kentucky Volunteer Militia. The Kentucky troops were sent to the relief of besieged Frenchtown on River Raisin, Michigan, where they underwent massacre and imprisonment when General James Winchester surrendered on Jan. 22, 1813.

After his military career, McCalla Sr. became interested in many different areas. He had political ambitions along with studying law. He became the U.S. Marshal of Kentucky, and on March 31, 1845 was appointed second auditor of the U. S. Treasury under James Polk's administration. His term lasted until 1849, at which time he focused on his law practice. McCalla was an ardent Democrat and was welcomed to the American Party in 1854. He was a political opponent of Henry Clay and a supporter of Andrew Jackson. Following the war he supported Andrew Johnson.

Dr. John McCalla Jr. worked as a clerk and physician during the Civil War. He also traveled to Liberia as part of the American Colonization Society in 1860.


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Provenance

The John McCalla family papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library in accessions between 1960 and 1966.

Processing Information

Processed by Keelia McCaffrey, April 2016